October 16, 2014

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I hear a lot of historical echoes there. The first Chinese person I knew well, back in England 40-odd years ago, had grown up in Shanghai during the Japanese occupation. He had some toe-curling stories about Japanese atrocities; but he”€™d always end them with a sort of half-excuse for the conquerors: “€œThe Japanese themselves weren”€™t the worst. The worst were their colonial troops”€”Koreans, Mongolians, Manchus, Taiwanese …”€

There’s something about those ethnic borderlands and colonies.  The guy responsible for spreading Greek civilization all over the known world, at the point of a sword, was from backwoods Macedonia. Napoleon was Corsican; Hitler Austrian; Stalin Georgian.

George Orwell pondered this:

I have always held that if we ever have a Hitler in this country he will be, perhaps, an Ulsterman, a South African, a Maltese, a Eurasian, or perhaps an American … but, at any rate, not an Englishman.  [Tribune, 6/30/44.]

An American? I think Orwell was being a bit snide there. He does, though, prompt the question: If we ever have an authoritarian dictator in the U.S.A., will he come from the borderlands? What borderlands? Puerto Rico? Guam?

Voice from the back of the class:  Kenya?

Who said that? Which boy said that? Stand up, please. Was that you, Derbyshire? …


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